This July 4th will mark two-hundred and forty two years since the Declaration of Independence was signed and a new republic was born. In recognition and celebration of the innovations and sacrifices of our founders, this week I’ll be turning the spotlight on a miniseries that puts the rebel in rebellion; 2015’s Sons of Liberty. Easily one of the grittiest portrayals of colonial America, the series chronicles the events leading up to the American Revolution with all of the suspense, romance, and raw emotion that your history class left out.
|The original Boston Strong|
The story begins with Boston in a state of upheaval as the streets descend into poverty, gang violence, and a crime epidemic under the by turns indifferent and brutal rule of colonial England. Amidst this tumult, local tax collector Sam Adams (Ben Barnes) attempts to help those in need by using his own limited funds to pay the tax debts of friends and local business owners. Despite his good intentions, Adams’ attempts at philanthropy leave him unable to pay his own taxes, leading the British authorities to issue a warrant for his arrest. When his failed arrest prompts a riot that destroys the governor’s mansion, he quickly finds himself the unlikely center of a local movement. Meanwhile, local businessman John Hancock (Rafe Spall), Sam’s cousin, lawyer John Adams (Henry Thomas), and Doctor Joseph Warren (Ryan Eggold) each find themselves at a crossroads as events unfold that force each of them to question the status quo and choose which side of history they want to be on.
When the series debuted, the History Channel promoted it with the tagline; “there’s the revolution you know. And the one that’s about to begin”. Through its unique approach the series more than lived up to its promotion by providing an insider’s look at the conflicted and complicated men behind the American Revolution. In this way, the series helps breathe new life into the events of 1776 in a way that highlights just what was so revolutionary about the ideals that the colonists were fighting for. Critics and historians rightly cited the series’ tendency to place entertainment value above historical accuracy. The series’ makers defended their work by insisting that their primary goal was to capture the spirit of the era rather than document it; a goal that they certainly achieved. Although the series more aptly serves as an engaging overview than a history lesson, it aptly portrays brings colonial America to gritty life for a new generation. For a viewing thrill ride that will teach you a few things along the way, ship up to Boston with the Sons of Liberty.
|Don't tread on me!|
The cast bring colonial America to vibrant life through their stellar performances. Ben Barnes’ roguishly charming performance transforms Sam Adams into a colonial Robin Hood as he rises up against the British ruling class for his fellow colonists. Rafe Squall is an ideal underdog as reluctant rebel John Hancock, and portrays Hancock’s surprising journey with a nuance that ensures his performance is as believable as it is entertaining. Henry Thomas is a perfect foil to Barnes’ reckless Sam in his turn as Sam’s upright but conflicted cousin, John. Ryan Eggold is a story-book worthy hero in his portrayal of noble Doctor Warren. Martin Csokas is an ideal villain in his portrayal of chillingly brutal British general Thomas Gage. Emily Berrington infuses her role as Gage’s battered wife turned Warren’s illicit love interest, Margaret, with an intelligence and spunk that will endear her to audiences as much as they do to the good doctor.
Sons of Liberty aptly brings the American Revolution to life with a modern flair. Through its gritty portrayal of the events leading up to the revolution the series provides viewers with essential insight into the founding fathers’ motives, sacrifices, and truly revolutionary ideas. The series’ combination of an intelligent script and engaging performances will leave even those who hated history class wanting more. For a mini-series that puts the drama in historical drama settle down for a Boston-style tea party with the Sons of Liberty.
|Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave...|